Get your Kicks: This 440m of Route 66 is a musical instrument

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To travel

Route 66: The American Transcontinental Highway has inspired countless road trip songs and soundtracks.

“It winds from Chicago to LA, over 2,000 miles,” according to the Stones, Chuck Berry and even Nat King Cole who all sang to get their “’66 kicks.”

But few people know that sections of the track play music.

A stretch of road starting in Tijeras, New Mexico has been cut with rough strips that play “America the Beautiful” if drivers stick to the 45 mph (72 km / h) speed limit.

An ingenious way to encourage road-tripers to drive at a reasonable speed, the bumps have become a kind of tourist attraction.

Let’s face it, on this stretch of highway, 400 km from Amarillo and the Texas border, the benchmarks are pretty thin.

The installation of 330 bands over a 20m stretch produces the recognizable E rating of passing cars. As the New Mexico Department of Transportation told Smithsonian magazine at the time, “anything that vibrates 330 times in a second will produce an E note – a guitar string, a tuning fork, or even a tire.”

Drilling the simple rhyme melody into the tarmac produces an American ditty to break up the monotony of driving on the Mother Road. “O-beau-ti-ful!”

However, over the five years on the road seems to lose its edge. Some drivers say the road feels a bit worn in places and the musical highway is a bit out of tune.

Bernadette Bell of DOT told KRQE the road will be readjusted if it becomes too unstable. “If and when the Singing Highway starts to deteriorate, we’ll take a look at it, if it needs to be remade or maintained.”

Frank Sanchez, an engineer at the company who installed the tapes, admitted that “the song sounds different in every vehicle,” but motorists shouldn’t expect too much from Tar MacAdam’s musical track.

Other stretches of the musical road include a band in Lancaster, Calif. That had the opening of William Tell anchored in its surface. Built for a Honda commercial car, Avenue K was eventually repaved and moved to another part of town after noise complaints from residents.

Unfortunately, the result was a slightly wobbly rendition of the Lone Ranger theme tune, but it can still be found by determined motorists, as this video from gallokc shows:

Denmark has its own “Asphaltophone” and Japan has paved over 30 roads with musical accompaniment to deter speed, including a stretch of road near Mount Fuji with a melodic accompaniment: “Watch the stars in the night”


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